How to Make Better Bolsters


by John Lewis Jensen

First Steps Toward a Beauty of a Bolster

Because my work is so complicated, my first step is to draw and refine everything on paper, working out all of the issues in terms of design and proportions. Once this is done, I make about six Xerox copies of the drawing that will be cut and pasted to material as needed.

In the case of these bolsters, I had Timascus on hand already. It came precision-milled from the supplier in a 1/8-inch thickness. However, as you can see in the accompanying photo, there are some rough tooling marks that should be eliminated. The smoother the contact surfaces are to other contact surfaces, the tighter the overall fit of the knife parts. It is important and critical, to me anyway, that components be “air tight,” and that there are absolutely no visual gaps between materials.

I hand sand the flats. Even though I am technically using the 4-inch-by-36-inch belt sander, I am not turning it on, as that would be a bit too aggressive in this case. The piece is small and would be hard to hold against a moving belt. It could easily get away from me, which could damage the piece and/or my hands! I simply hand sand it with even pressure on a 320-grit sanding belt.


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I’m not trying, in particular, to remove thickness, only to eliminate the slightly irregular tool marks. This takes a bit of elbow grease, especially with the material being titanium. I just want to smooth out the surface. I have carefully cut out the bolster section from my overall drawing and double-stick taped this shape down to the topside of the raw material that I want to be my front bolster.

As you can see in the accompanying photo, I have smoothed the surface. You can see the grit marks of the sanding belt, but the bolster material is certainly smooth and flat to the touch and sight. The process is repeated for both bolsters.

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